Technique

Freebie: Technical Requirements Charts for RCM/MDP Practical Exams

Today, I’m sharing a project that I have been working on extensively for the past three weeks.  I am very excited to have this project complete and be able to share it with you!

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For the last two years, I have entered a couple of students in the Royal Conservatory’s Music Development Program (previously known as The Achievement Program and the National Music Certificate Program in the U.S.).  It is an excellent program that I hope to continue to use with my students.  Preparing for the practical exams has been a positive experience for my students.

As a newcomer to the MDP, I found it challenging to keep track of the technical requirements with my students.  I found myself pulling out the MDP Piano Syllabus at every single lesson in order to clarify something or check if we were doing things right.  And writing out the technical requirements on my students’ assignment sheets each week was time consuming, especially since I expected my students to review each previous weeks’ material.   Continue reading “Freebie: Technical Requirements Charts for RCM/MDP Practical Exams”

Giveaways, Reviews, Technology

Review & Giveaway: Princess Piano app

iTunesConnectPrincess Piano is an iPhone/iPad app by the developer Dented Pixel.  I recently stumbled upon this app in the iTunes store, and decided to give it a whirl!

When you first open the app, it allows you to login under your own name.  The app’s settings allow you to change players, and to choose the game speed (to make it harder or easier).  The default speed is “100%,” and the range allowed is 20% to 200%.

The game begins with an introductory storyline.  The main character, Princess Piano lives in a Cloud Kingdom.  An evil witch, Beatrice Dafowl, appears, and spreads her magic sleep dust over Cloud Kingdom.  Fortunately, Princess Piano lept from the edge of the Cloud Kingdom just in time to escape the sleep dust.  She fell all the way down to earth, protected by her magic ballet shoes that allow her to dance through the air when accompanied by music.  The ending call to action states: Help Princess Piano dance her way back to the Cloud Kingdom by playing the songs as well as you can!

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Continue reading “Review & Giveaway: Princess Piano app”

Printables, seasonal / holiday

Piano Valentine Printable #2

Remember the piano valentines I made last year?

I was wasn’t planning to design a new music-themed valentine this year — but when inspiration struck, I just had to design it!

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Is it a heart, or is it a piano?!  Well, it’s both!  :)

This design is simpler and easier to assemble than last year’s design.  Just cut out the heart shapes!  If desired, you can attach a piece of candy to each valentine using a circle of tape.  I made a bunch of these to give to my piano students next week.

The free pdf printable can be downloaded by visiting the Printables > Other Resources page, and scrolling down to the P’s for “Piano Valentine Printable 2.”  Enjoy!

repertoire / methods

Forum Q&A: Duet Repertoire Suggestions

Barefoot Easter SerenadeOur previous Forum Q&A post was about Christmas gifts for piano students.  We received a LOT of responses — thank you!  I will definitely be consulting that post again next year when Christmas rolls around!

Our new Forum Q&A is a topic suggested by a reader.  She says:

“My New Years resolution in my studio is for myself and my students to sight read and prepare more duets.  I would love suggestions on duets at all levels.” 

 So, please share in the comments of this post!  What are some of your favorite solos or books for piano duet to use with students?

Early Childhood Music, Games

Printable: Black Key Group Sorting Cards

A new free Printable has been added to the Printables page:

These cards are a great manipulative to use with young beginners when you are first introducing them to the keyboard.  Students can use the cards to build a keyboard on the floor, alternating the groups of 2 and 3 black keys.  Or, students can use these at the piano, and lay the cards right on the piano keyboard, matching the groups of black keys appropriately.   I printed a few sets of these cards, laminated them, and put them in zipper bags.  This short activity is great for Piano Readiness Classes.

There are two versions included in the pdf: one with the letter names on the keys, and one without.  To download this free pdf, visit the Printables > Other Resources page and scroll down to the B’s for “Black Key Group Sorting Cards.”  Enjoy!

Composition, Music Camps, Printables

So, You Want To Be A Composer? – 2012 Summer Camp Details

Last week, I held my second summer music camp for my piano students!  It was called, “So, You Want To Be A Composer?”  I am so excited to share with you some details about our camp.  We had a really great week!

Here’s where all the magic happened:

Continue reading “So, You Want To Be A Composer? – 2012 Summer Camp Details”

Games, Group Classes, Music Camps, Printables, Teaching Piano

Spell-A-Keyboard Game

This morning with my homeschool music class, I played this game with my students:

As I was lesson planning last night, I was trying to think of a new way to practice the names of the piano keys.  My homeschool music class is mostly a music history class, but we’ve been learning basic music/piano concepts too.  My students already know how to figure them the piano key names by counting from Middle C, but they need more practice to get them memorized.  So I came up with this game, which I called the “Spell-A-Keyboard Game.”

My students loved this game!  I gave them each a set of cards with words containing only A-G (I gave them only the three-letter words for today) and a silent keyboard or paper keyboard, and three glass gems (pennies or buttons work too).  Then I instructed them to “spell” the words from each flashcard by covering the right keys with glass gems.  If you are playing this game with students at the piano, you can require that students spell the letters in order from left to right, but on a silent keyboard there might not be room to do so (as in the example shown in the photo).

This game is a great way to practice the piano key names without it actually feeling like a drill!  My students really enjoyed seeing how quickly they could spell the words and were pretty proud of their work each time.

You can download the “Musical Alphabet Word Flashcards” on the Printables > Games page.  When I created the cards, I tried to pick mostly words that kids would know.  Enjoy!

Update: I just realized that Susan Paradis plays a game very similar to this, except the words are spelled on the staff!  Read more here.

Update: Read about the outdoor version of this game here, where I describe my Musical Olympics Camp.

Update: I also found a way to adapt this game to be used with two floor keyboards indoors, with two teams.  Click here for more info.

Announcements, Performances

Spring Recital Details

As I mentioned yesterday, our Spring Recital was Saturday!  Here’s how it went down:

  • It was held at the local library.  They have an atrium with a Steinway baby grand piano.  In the past, I’ve always held recitals at churches (and once at a school).  I look for churches with grand pianos that can be moved to the center of the sanctuary.  Being new in town, I haven’t yet discovered which churches have this kind of set-up (plus they have to be affordable).  Two of my students suggested using the library, so we did.  It costs $50 to rent and it’s a nice location with high ceilings and lots of natural light.  I was happy with it!
  • I always play something at my students’ recitals.  This year, I asked my friend, a violinist for whom I’m accompanying for her semester juries at my local university, to play her jury piece with me.  She was thrilled to be asked — but she needed to be first on the program so she could leave early for another event she had in the afternoon.  I wish I could let you hear the piece — but I forgot to start the video camera before we played the piece!  (I’m still kicking myself.)  Anyway, here’s Itzhak Perlman playing it.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKI9uoNfC18
  • After the violin piece, my students played.  I had 10 out of my 16 students play at the recital (the others are adult students, new 4-year-old students, or had a schedule conflict).  I knew it would be a short and sweet recital, but I still feel recitals are beneficial enough that it was worth doing anyway!
  • After playing, my students stood in the front for a group photo, and I gave them each a rose for their performance.  It’s a tradition I’ve been doing for a few years now, although my students in my new town, of course, have not experienced it yet.
  • Afterwards, we had a little reception with cupcakes, a Kit Kat piano (a la Pinterest), and cheese n’ crackers.

I don’t think I can share video of the recital since the pieces performed are under copyright, but I hope to share a photo slideshow soon!

Do you all have Spring Recitals coming up?  I like holding mine early in the Spring because May and June are such a busy months.

repertoire / methods, Reviews

Review: Daniel McFarlane’s Repertoire for Students

Australian composer Daniel McFarlane has composed a number of student-level repertoire books which are available on his website.  Daniel was kind enough to send me digital copies of his books so I could review them here.

In appearance, all of Daniel’s books have easy-to-read scores with no illustrations.  The titles of each piece are in fun fonts depending on the subject of each piece.

All of Daniel’s books can be purchased in hard copies or as digital copies (be careful that you’ve selected the right one when you check-out! The digital ones clearly say “Digital Edition” in the title, and allow for one print-out of the book).  The prices for the music of Daniel’s website are in Australian dollars.  Daniel assured me that when you check-out, the conversion to your currency would be made properly.  The current rate of AUD compared to USD is about 1:1.

Soundscapes Book 1

The pieces in Sounscapes Book 1 have a pop-ish and almost rock music sound to them, while retaining elements of classical music and good educational writing for students.  The pieces feature repetitive patterns and chord progressions, catchy tunes, lyrical RH melodies, syncopated rhythms, and repeated LH notes.

I would use this book with an early intermediate student (probably no younger than age 9) who has good technique and an excellent sense of rhythm.  It could also be a great option for teenagers or adult students at that level of playing.  The pieces are very appealing in sound and would be a great option for boy students.

As you read this review, open another window and listen to the pieces hereContinue reading “Review: Daniel McFarlane’s Repertoire for Students”

Early Childhood Music, Games, Group Classes, Printables, Teaching Piano

The Amazing Keyboard Race

I had a wonderful extended weekend in Michigan, giving my presentations and spending time with my family!  Now I’m busy back at work, playing catch-up.  :)  However, I do have a little game I’d like to share with you today.

I am not the original inventor of this game, I’m sure — but in case you haven’t seen it before, here’s how to play this keyboard game with your beginner students!

Continue reading “The Amazing Keyboard Race”